Abu Dhabi: An Emirati-led study has found that almost 10 per cent of cancer patients experiencing no coronavirus symptoms test positive for the virus.
The study, carried out by oncologists at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, has been published to provide insights into the best medical practices to be followed when treating cancer patients.
Due to its life-threatening nature, cancer treatment cannot be put on hold, and patients must undergo daily or weekly treatment for prolonged periods of time. So a continuous discussion has been taking place amongst doctors who specialize in the field of oncology regarding the elevated risks COVID 19 may pose to these patients.
Dr Humaid Al Shamsi, head of medical oncology at Al Zahra Hospital and president of the Emirates Cancer Society, and Dr Sadir Al Rawi, head of surgery and surgical oncology, launched a study last month examining 89 cancer patients who had no symptoms of COVID -19 before starting chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The study found almost 10% of patients to be infected with the virus while being asymptomatic. These patients were then isolated.
“Chemotherapy or radiation drastically reduce the immunity of a patient. If a patient is COVD-19 positive and receives his cancer treatment, there is a huge risk that they might have serious or even fatal complications. Our study found that although some of the patients have no symptoms, they can still be COVID-19 positive which could potentially become a life threat if cancer treatments are allocated. By periodically carrying out COVID-19 screening tests to cancer patients before their scheduled treatment sessions and isolating the positive patients, we are saving the patients from possible complications and reducing the risk of exposure of other cancer patients,” Dr Al Shamsi explained.
This study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA Oncology), one of the largest international peer reviewed journals specializsng in the field of cancer and tumor treatment, is considered the first research source demonstrating the need for active surveillance of cancer patients for COVID-19.
“At Al Zahra Hospital Dubai we place utmost importance on medical research driving our evidence based delivery of care. Setting proven protocols for cancer patients’ treatment during these times of uncertainty is essential to reduce the risk for a vulnerable segment. I am confident that other medical institutions from all over the world will find this study interest, and will implement similar protocols moving forward,” Dr Al Rawi said.